Scouting Report: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

Scouting Report: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

A pure pocket passer
By: Pete Davidson : April 16, 2014 7:57am

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Today we are looking at one of the more interesting players in this year’s draft. Back in the late fall, Rotobahn was prepared to make Zach Mettenberger one of our big names for the Spring. We were very impressed with his growth under new OC Cam Cameron. We also liked that he was playing in a pro style offense and doing so well with it. Then, on November 29th against Arkansas, Mettenberger’s story took an unfortunate turn. His knee got ripped up against Arkansas. It was an obvious hyperextension and the implications were clear.... Mettenberger was no longer a clean option in the 2014 Draft.

Now for the good. Since having surgery to repair his torn ACL, Mettenberger has had a lot of positive news. He was able to throw at his Pro Day and the reviews were quite good.  Now don’t get me wrong. Putting on a nice show in a controlled environment is not a sign that Mettenberger is ready to play and start in 2014. In fact, I think he’d be very well served to hold a clipboard for most if not all of 2014. This is not just because of the injury, though there are obvious benefits to getting all the way back to 100 percent before putting the joint at risk. Mettenberger has some things to iron out if he is going to be a starter at the next level, but before we get to that, I want to look at Zach’s strengths, and why he is such an intriguing prospect.

While he was not able to work out at the Combine, he did show up and had his measurements taken. He also spoke to us press guys. On his medical evaluations, Mettenberger had good news which has proved to be true. “Everything is really good. All the doctors said I’m progressing at a rapid pace so far. I'm six weeks out from ACL surgery, doing a lot of stuff they haven’t seen before.”

Mettenberger's respect for Cam Cameron, his OC at LSU, was obvious. “Working with a guy like him, he’s got a tremendous pedigree. He’s worked with a lot of great coaches and quarterbacks. He taught me how to approach the game like a veteran when I was a senior in college. I got a year head start since I was taking one online class. I was up at the facility at eight o’clock every morning studying film. When I needed to see him or ask for anything I could. I had almost a year head start on some of these other guys.”  That’s obviously very positive stuff and Mettenberger’s tape shows significant improvement under Cameron.

As I have been saying, I was very impressed with Jaguars HC Gus Bradley at the Combine. Mettenberger agrees. “Coach Bradley was awesome, first time I met him. He’s a tremendous guy. He really left an impression on me.”   Speaking of leaving an impression, Mettenberger also told us that he’d already met with “fifteen to twenty teams” before he left Indianapolis.

Let’s take a look at Mettenberger’s Combine measurements.

  • Height - 6’5”
  • Weight - 224
  • Hands - 9 3/4”

That’s pretty much what was expected, but it’s key information because what you see is the prototypical build for a pocket passer in the NFL.

Let’s take a look at some of the things we like about Mettenberger.

  • Size - As I said, he is prototypical.
  • Arm - Mettenberger has the proverbial cannon for an arm. He can throw ropes all over the field. There really aren’t any throws he can’t make with the exception of throwing on the dead run, which can be a challenge for him.
  • Release - I have heard a few folks lamenting on issues regarding Zach’s release. I’m not seeing that. We think his release is fine and we see plenty of times where he’ll speed it up and shorten his stroke on an as-needed basis. He can improve in this area somewhat, but we see no red flags.
  • Pocket presence - Mettenberger stands tall in the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield. His height allows him to scan the field with ease. He still has some room to improve here, especially when the pocket gets really busy, but we like what we see at this stage of his development.
  • Toughness - This is crucial with a pocket passer. Mettenberger has shown the ability to take a hit and get back up. I’ve seen him get his proverbial clock cleaned and come back to throw a score on the same drive. This guy can handle the rough and tumble elements of the game.
  • Production - Though his senior season came to an unfortunate and abrupt halt, the production was quite good overall.

Let’s take a look at some film. This game against UAB is more like a highlight reel, but it shows what Mettenberger can look like when he is playing downhill.

Here’s a look at Mettenberger’s last college game, ending with his knee injury. It’s a pretty straightforward hyperextension. Stop the tape before the end if you’ve had knee injuries. It’s tough to watch for me as a former ACL sufferer.

There is tons of great footage of Mettenberger at Draft Breakdown, so dive in if you like to do your own scouting.  As you watch the tape, the thing that should obviously jump out at you is Mettenberger’s arm strength. From a clean pocket, he can drive the ball downfield and make any throw with ease. There’s no doubt that any NFL team looking for a pocket passer will drool at this kid’s upside. It’s intoxicating.

As for Mettenberger’s downside. There are three primary things to look at.

First, Mettenberger’s camp can spin positive on his knee all they want, but it’s still a fresh ACL injury and he won’t be two years removed until late in the 2015 season. Not playing in 2014 could end up being the best thing for Mettenberger and his new team as far as the long term is concerned. The fact that Mettenberger seems like a second round pick, makes it a lot easier to sit him early in his career. As we know, there is a somewhat senseless rule of thumb that first round quarterbacks need to play right away.

Second, as much as we were impressed with Mettenberger’s improvement under Cam Cameron, we still see plenty of room to grow, and playing at less than 100 percent as a rookie is a sure way to stunt that potential growth. Mettenberger has scant mobility and can't protect himself like a lot of his young counterparts. You really don’t want him playing too soon. He should have close to full mastery of whatever offense he is running before he starts a game.

Lastly, we’d like to see some improvement with the finer points of Mettenberger’s technique in a few areas. His back foot is often problematically open and that can lead to poor accuracy, which we see on a lot of short-to-intermediate throws. Ball placement in general is an issue for Mettenberger, who often gets a little shaky when he has to take pace off the ball. He’s still a work in progress here.

Before I close on Mettenberger, I want to take a look at his off the field incident that led to his departure from Georgia back in 2010. Let’s be clear here. There is no excuse for sex crimes. Mettenberger clearly did something wrong and he paid a price for it. This was a case of a young man being intoxicated at a bar and being exceedingly immature and inappropriate. It’s a good thing that the incident was not swept under the rug. The victim deserved that much at minimum, but I also think, given the nature of the incident, that Mettenberger deserves a chance to go forward and prove he’s learned from his mistakes. By all appearances, he is doing that.

Placing a value on Mettenberger is complex. The injury obviously factors in as does his new team and the new team’s depth chart. For example, we could easily see New England taking this kid if he slips to the end of round two. He’d be an improvement over Ryan Mallet as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Then again, if Mettenberger gets taken by a team like the Browns or Vikings, he could be a legit fantasy option by 2015 or maybe even sooner. He would look very good in Norv Turner’s system in particular. He has tons of dynasty upside in that kind of scenario.

I’ll be back with an update on Mettenberger after the draft.



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